What's The Difference Between FSC Certified and
Recycled Paper and Which is Better to Use?
I’ve been asked this question hundreds of times, so here's the answer:
FSC stands for Forest Stewardship Council. They are a third party certification organization who assess those who manage the care of forests. They look at how those managing the care of a forest are complying with federal law and international agreements relating to the rights of indigenous peoples, enhancing the long-term social and economic well being of workers and surrounding communities, and conserving the biological diversity, water, soil and ecosystems surrounding the forest. The FSC also requires a management plan. It must describe the scale and intensity of logging and renewal operations as well as the long-term objectives and monitoring of the forest, making sure that what is cut down is being replanted. If all the criteria of the FSC are met by the management of the forest, then the forest will receive an FSC Certification. Paper made from wood taken from FSC certified trees is given the FSC Certification as well. FSC Certified paper does NOT have anything to do with the paper being recycled, but that it was derived from trees from a well managed forest.
Recycled paper is made from either 100% discarded (post-consumer) paper, or a mix of post-consumer and pre-consumer paper (paper that is discarded during the paper-making process, but never gets used by consumers), or a mix of post-consumer and either FSC Certified or just regular, non certified paper.
So which one is better? There is a lot of debate about this in the paper industry. Paper made directly from trees still requires the trees be cut down, (although they are replanted). Large tractors and logging machinery are used, adding pollution and noise to the surrounding environments, as well as chemicals and water waste used in the paper-making process. On the other hand, chemicals are still used in the making of recycled paper, because the fibers have to be broken down and de-inked (although most recycled papers no longer use toxic bleach in the de-inking process). I always use recycled paper. Although both types unfortunately use chemicals in the process, you are at least not adding to the landfills or harming ecosystems during the logging process. I encourage everyone to use recycled paper, even if it is only 30% or 50% recycled. If you choose to use non-recycled paper, make sure it is FSC Certified. At least you can feel confident that the wood was harvested with the utmost care and concern for the forest and its surrounding ecosystem.